Atheist Moral Failings

Florence, from the roof of the Duomo
Florence, from the roof of the Duomo

Galleria Accademica in Florence, Italy houses one of the most famous sculptures in the world – Il Davide. It captures David basking in the glow of his first victory, after proving he picked five stones but only needed one to defeat the giant Goliath lead the Israelites to victory against the Philistines. It captures a moment in David’s youth, a promising moment that should have defined the future of his kingship.

But this moment did not last. David does not remain crystallized in the seat of memory as the warrior king nobly guiding his people on to the life they have envisioned that God has given them. Or at least, not for me, because I kept reading the story.

It seems that David runs into a fair bit of moral trouble up the road. You can read it for yourself in 2 Samuel 11 , but the cliff notes start with the lyrics of the song Hallelujah:

Your faith was strong, but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you. She tied you to the kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the ‘hallelujah.’

David saw Bathsheba bathing one night atop her home and he had to have her. Because he was the king, he could. He first uses his authority to compel a woman married to one of his loyal soldiers to sleep with him. And because he got her pregnant, he deprived his own army of a capable soldier while inviting Uriah home to covertly convince him to sleep with Bathsheba, so that David can cover his tracks. When that backfires because of the loyalty that Uriah has to David, his country, and his men, David takes the only sensible next step and issues an order to put Uriah on the front lines and have everyone retreat from him – a death sentence.

What happens to men of God in situations such as these?

What If I Stumble?

One critique of atheists is that they have no objective grounds on which to base their morality. Indeed, a point that many dreadful apologists attempt to hammer in further is the idea that atheists reject God explicitly to eschew responsibility for their actions.

In David’s situation, he believed in God very deeply, but what was the difference in his behavior? If our fear is that the godless do not know how to be good, then what we should see is optimal behavior from someone known as “a man after God’s own heart.”

For the record, I am capable of all of the horrible moral failings that Christians are susceptible to. The only difference is that when I do something bad, I have to own up to it. There is no Lamb of God that was sent to atone for what I did, and there’s no all-powerful God to get “forgiveness” from for my behavior. It’s just me.

And Christians don’t have to be perfect, but if they’re going to call the irreligious out for not having moral standards because they don’t believe in God, people who do believe in God can reasonably be expected to have better behavior. But they do not.

Believing in God didn’t stop David from sleeping with Bathsheba and killing Uriah, and God’s forgiveness didn’t bring Uriah back from the dead. It seems that, in David’s case and many other cases, belief in God is not enough to encourage better behavior, and that people are still quite capable of killing, raping, and lying, even when they think someone’s watching.

I wonder why.

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Twitter: @Ame0baRepublic


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